I touched on this briefly two posts ago about Astraweb’s DMCA automation. I was worried about abuse, but now I feel like all of my fears about potential abuse have been confirmed.
Semel on the NewsBin forum tested sending in a fake DMCA takedown request and succeeded. No surprises. Other members discussed what would keep release groups from DMCAing each others releases, and now you can even remove speech you don’t like by simply filing an automated DMCA request.
Let’s just hope that no one takes advantage of the situation to purposefully hurt Astraweb’s service. Obviously, without human review a lot of damage can be done. Copyright Trolls could easily take it upon themselves to start filing takedown requests.
Let’s hope that Astraweb will change their policy of following the path of least resistance.
EDIT: I had a small misunderstanding that Semel cleared up in comments. He only uploaded passworded archives that looked like copyrighted material. I still wonder if someone could take down anything using Astraweb’s automated system.
Doesn’t seem like much has changed on the usenet landscape over the summer.
Astraweb is finally cracking down a bit on DMCA complaints. Pay-per-view MMA are the only targets I know of right now. Giganews is jumping on those fairly quick too. Still a good idea to have a backup block account in the Netherlands. They won’t be hit with DMCA takedowns.
Unfortunately for Astraweb, they’re starting to be a victim of their own success. A few years ago, only GigaNews was taking down usenet uploads. Even then, they’d just take down parts of it, and leave enough for the parchive to repair. Hardly a take down.
Now we see full uploads being yanked left and right. If you like MMA or console games, usenet is becoming a little inhospitable.
I’m not quite plugged into those two scenes, but I wonder how people in the trenches are getting around these problems. The usual choice is to just slap a password on the RARs. Works fairly well, but you have to be in the loop and know the password.
I hope passworded archives aren’t the future for usenet. I don’t want to search through forum posts to find a simple download. We’ll all be saddled with nzbmatrix or a forum style. I suppose programs like SickBeard could adapt, but who wants that.
Perhaps release groups could feed their passwords to auto-indexers, but there are problems with this too.
If it gets too hot, I’ll just switch to a euro provider, even if the retention isn’t that great.
Astraweb is unfortunately known for occasionally having random incompletes. Having a backup server from another provider is the popular solution, but there is another way without having to purchase another usenet account.
The best trick is to set the EU Astraweb server as your backup server, assuming the US server is your primary. For some reason, this works most of the time. Taking this trick further, you can set Astraweb servers backup servers and use different ports. I’ve seen this help many times.
I wonder if using a different port connects you to a different server in the server farm giving you an additional chance. In fact, once when Astraweb having making a bad run of incompletes, their customer service told people to try different ports as a solution.
So if you’re using us.news.astraweb.com as your primary, I’d set up my servers like this in SABnzbd:
This gives you a good spread of servers and ports. You can easily play with different ports, even trying SSL servers as primary or backup.
Anyone running into problems should give it a try before investing in another usenet account or even jumping ship entirely.
Nearly every Usenet provider offers SSL as a basic perk with their plans. It’s a nice thing to have, more encryption is always better. Although, I think it has largely been marketed like snake oil to people.
SSL is primarily useful if your ISP throttles non-encrypted traffic, particularly NNTP traffic. ISPs usually don’t throttle SSL, unless they’re using a protocol agnostic throttling style like Comcast. Banking and other sensitive transactions occur on that layer, so most ISPs don’t want to bother.
Comcast is a little different. They’ll throttle your whole connection, not just certain types of protocols. Without getting into too many details, Comcast tests each neighborhood each 15 minutes for the volume of traffic. If the volume of traffic is really high, they’ll throttle the whole connection for the heaviest users during that time. Once the area goes back to normal volumes of traffic, the throttling ends. SSL won’t get you past that kind of protocol agnostic traffic shaping.
A lesser, albeit still important, reason to use SSL is if you’re using open WiFi. Then anyone could see your login information and what you’re downloading or posting. If you’re using Usenet from public hotspots, then yeah, you should use SSL.
Many people think it is a way to keep their downloading a secret from their ISP. That is true, but it misses the point. If you’re not making your ISP get DMCA complaints, they don’t really care what you download. They do care how much you download. Downloading 1TB of data is going to make any residential ISP give you a phone call and tell you to knock it off. It won’t matter if all of that 1TB was AES encrypted or not.
The only downside to using SSL is the increased overhead. Your downloads will go a little slower than without SSL, but for many people the peace of mind is worth a small dent in speed.
It might not be the cure all for privacy issues, but it is a useful tool that people don’t always seem to understand.
Usually, if you’re running into completion problems, it’s due to a DMCA takedown. They’re usually pretty easy to spot if you have an NZB completion checker. I like using NZBcc the most.
Using that software, I checked an NZB that I knew would have had a DMCA takedown on Giganews. If you look at the segments, the first segment or two will be missing in a DMCA takedown. Even the pars have missing segments. Although, I’m not sure why there are still 3 complete files. Maybe the DMCA takedown notice was just sloppy.
For this one, there are enough PAR2s to repair the RAR archives. If the uploader had only uploaded PAR2s with 5% redundancy, wouldn’t have worked since even the PAR2s are damaged by the DMCA takedown.
If it was just regular problems with completion, you’d see random segments missing. If it’s always the first segment, you can pretty much bet your money that it’ll be a DMCA takedown.
Giganews is seen as the best Usenet provider in the market. They have the longest retention, big data centers, and high completion. At least high completion of articles that haven’t been hit with DMCA take-down notices. Giganews resellers, such as SuperNews, do very well by reselling the Giganews feed. Everyone knows that their servers are good and stable. On the other hand, they’re the prime target for DMCA take-downs. These are so rampant that many popular uploads are taken down from Giganews servers within a week or two of being posted on Usenet.
Although, Giganews doesn’t take down all of the posts. They only take down 1 to 2 parts of each segment. On the surface, this would seemingly allow downloaders to repair the files. Except that isn’t what is happening. People who are uploading files are not adding enough PAR2s to repair the corrupted RAR files.
Everyone suggests that 10-20% redundancy is what we should be aiming for with PAR2s. Many posters are only going as high as 5%. If you have a backup server, this isn’t the end of the world. Your NZB downloader will just pick up the blocks that are missing on Giganews. Granted, you’re kinda wasting money by having to constantly rely on your block account. It’s usually pretty easy to just jump ship anyways.
What really confuses me is that many uploaders seem to know that their posts will be subject to this kind of take-down. So they’ll add enough PAR2 blocks to repair having 2 parts of every file taken down. The only problem is that they don’t take into account that 2 parts of every PAR2 file will also be taken down. So you end up with not enough pars to fix everything.
When you’re making PAR2s, just set it for 12% redundancy and be done with it. Maybe people will just make the switch to another Usenet provider that isn’t a prime target for DMCA take-down notices. No one wants to see their block account dwindle away.
Privacy is important to everyone. No one wants their ISP, or anyone else, snooping their Usenet traffic. Giganews offers a VyprVPN as a perk with their top tier Diamond plan. It’s definitely a nice perk. But I’m not completely convinced that it’s very useful for Usenet.
Giganews’ Diamond plan, like most Usenet providers, already has SSL encrypted connections. Your connections are already secured and private between your computer and the Giganews servers. A VPN from the same company seems both redundant and unnecessary.
VPN connections are useful, but not in the context of browsing Usenet. If you’re frequently using public WiFi hotspots, then a VPN is exactly what you need. In this case, all of your none SSL connections are out in the open for anyone to snoop on. FireSheep is a well known example of a tool that can do this. You don’t want someone at your coffee shop to hijack your Facebook profile.
Some ISPs will snoop on your browsing traffic and feed you ads. I for one wouldn’t want my ISP to do that. A VPN will keep your ISP from snooping on your traffic. They’ll never know what websites your visiting. Since a VPN encrypts all of your traffic even services like AIM will be private from your ISP.
Although your ISP won’t be able to monitor your traffic, you shouldn’t expect a VPN to completely keep you anonymous. The VPN service has the ability to monitor your traffic. If you abuse the service they’ll know its you. So for anyone thinking that they can use a VPN to get anonymously use BitTorrent, the VPN service has the ability to know who is abusing their service. If they get a DMCA letter, they’ll still know it’s you.
Keeping all of this in mind, if you do need a VPN service Giganews is worth a look. It’s a nice perk for their top tier plan. Plus with the new DumpTruck online storage service, the Diamond Plan is looking attractive for anyone who needs a VPN and online storage. But understand the limitations of the privacy and anonymity a VPN provides.
Many people wonder if Giganews censors Usenet. They wrote in their blog a few years ago about how they have deleted whole newsgroups because of pressure coming from the New York Attorney General. At the time, the Attorny General had been pressuring ISPs about their usenet access, and was threatening to hold them accountable for any criminal activity. Naturally, ISPs took the easy way out and just dump access to Usenet. Very few ISPs still give free access to Usenet. Now most people rely on a premium provider.
As far as I know, there have been no piracy related newsgroup deletions. So I don’t think that it will effect most people. There are worries that SOPA related legal pressure could result in newsgroups being deleted for piracy related reasons. I think that will be like playing whack-a-mole. Even in that blogpost, Giganews mentions that it is too easy to simple change where you post.
Block accounts seem like the neglected redheaded step child of the Usenet world. Most people jump on the cheapest unlimited Usenet subscription, like SuperNews or Astraweb, and hope for the best. The problem is that many of the big Usenet providers have holes in their completions. Either due to DMCA take-downs or just random missing articles.
You need to have a block account on a totally different feed. People on GigaNews and Astraweb typically like to use BlockNews. By having a different provider for your block account, you at least get around completion holes of your primary Usenet provider.
It’s always good to have a backup just in case. A 5 gig block account is typically more than enough. Since you’ll only need to download missing parts and not the wholes files, 5 gigs could last years.